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Trying To Make An Impression During Workouts

by Mike Ulmer
June 4, 2008

Jim Kelly | Jason Thompson | Ryan Anderson | Kosta Koufos

Imagine a job interview spread over two days, an interview that ends with a two-hour audition where they work you so hard you want to throw up.

Welcome to the NBAs pre-draft workouts, convened for the pleasure of the Toronto Raptors player evaluation people this week at Air Canada Centre

Day two of the workouts featured six players Wednesday at Air Canada Centre: California forward Ryan Anderson, Ohio State centre Kosta Koufos, Stanford centre Robin Lopez, Rider forward Jason Thompson, Michigan State guard Drew Neitzel and Gonzaga guard Jeremy Pargo.

After dinners with club officials and interviews, the players were drilled in a two-hour session that included short-court three-on three, sprints and enough murderous drills to delight even the most sadistic coach.

Right now, in the skies over NBA cities, a college kid is circling and wondering if he will find his big chance when he lands. There may be as many as 60 kids, all pegged somewhere a notch below the elite or just outside the draft, working to better his stock.

The workouts are an elaborate dance between teams, players and agents. Players in the top echelon of the draft might only want to work out for teams they figure will take them.

Agents turn down pairings because the configuration six-men chosen might not work to their clients advantage. Agents understand match-ups as well as coaches.

We ask for them and then we ask for them and then we beg for them and we have to tell them who they are working against, said Raptors director of player personnel Jim Kelly and maybe Im not going to come against this player and if they are there, Ill come.

The big prize is the guaranteed money that comes with selection in the first round and even if a prospect figures to be a first-rounder, there is ample financial incentive to move up. The difference between being drafted 10 and 15th is $474,740 dollars. Now multiply that guaranteed money over a minimum of three years and you see what I mean.

Its a couple of weeks of hard work, travelling and working out, Neitzel said, but if you put your best out there, the rewards are going to be unbelievable.

Neitzel is one of the best point guards in the NCAA but he doesnt come with great height or dazzling quickness. He is not projected as a first rounder so his goal is to catch someones attention who has a need and a willingness to develop a point guard. To that end, he will participate in eight more workouts.

Like the dishwashers and secretaries who clog So You Think You Can Dance or Canadian Idol, he has to use any and every element he can bring to radically change the direction of his life. He is playing for his career and he knows it.

Were trying to impress. Its s a job interview, he said. Every place you go, every second you are there, its a job interview whether you are out to dinner or in the training room or in the gym. Thats the way youve got to look at it.

For Lopez, a frenetic seven-footer whose brother Brook, is a projected top six choice, the dynamic is different. He is projected as a late first-rounder. In an effort to increase that standing, he will jet about the continent and showcase himself in front of another eight or nine player assessment juries. He auditions in New Jersey on Thursday.

Lopez said the rigorous workout didnt bother him. The auditioning didnt stop when he met the media either. He said he loved Canada, thought the Raptors were a great team and offered that his biggest problem wasnt with conditioning but that he tends to try too hard. Hey, if youre going to come all this way and work this hard, why leave any bullets in the chamber?

I dont know about the other players but Im very hard on myself. I can make nine shots and if I miss the tenth, Im very disappointed in myself, he said. During the sessions I can be a little down on myself but whenever I get down, Im going to go that much harder. Im going to compensate that much more.

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